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Columns: Making News With Research
News clips from: WashingtonColoradoGeorgiaNew YorkDistrict of ColumbiaFlorida

Making Diversity News

Making News With Research

As the report discussed on page 6 reveals, a surge in college enrollment by students of color over the next 15 years will dramatically change the racial and ethnic makeup of college campuses.

This rapidly shifting demographic promises to make the national debate about diversity in higher education more visible and more contentious than ever. While many colleges and universities are discussing the best ways to achieve campus diversity, opponents of affirmative action and diversity learning are gearing up to oppose measures that change programs and curricula to reflect the growing diversity on campuses.

Engaging the media is vitally important for educators working to make a difference on diversity issues. Americans learn much of what they know from the news media, and newspapers, television and radio have great influence on public opinion. Research provides a unique opportunity for educators to cultivate and educate the media on diversity issues, and therefore reach new and larger audiences with important messages.

Positive coverage of campus diversity, however, does not come automatically. Any news story must be unique or important in some way. In addition, it is important to consider how material is packaged for reporters. Journalists approach information differently than academics do. For the most part, they do not have the luxury of time to read long, complex studies.

Developing talking points is a key first step in disseminating research through the news media. Talking points are message guidelines that help shape the text of news releases, speeches and other materials used in interviews. They should be compelling, direct, pithy, and powerful. Factual and anecdotal evidence will add meaning to your messages.

To promote accurate reporting, any study should be accompanied by a news release that includes bullets with key findings, a brief explanation of methodology, and quotes from the authors of the study or prominent experts on the issue. Three- to five-page executive summaries also can be extremely helpful to reporters.

There are many ways to deliver these messages to the media:

  • If possible work with experts in your public information office, as they can help you build a press list, polish and disseminate media materials, and pitch journalists;
  • Organize a news briefing with key reporters if the research lends itself to more in- depth and less formal discussion. News briefings generally are planned in conference rooms with speakers and reporters seated around one table;
  • Arrange an editorial board meeting at your local newspaper for the author of the study and other experts from campus;
  • Book the researchers or other experts on talk radio or television news programs; and/or
  • Mail the executive summary of the research and a news release to media, and make follow-up phone calls to generate stories.

Now more than ever it is important to generate balanced, accurate news stories about the impact of diversity--and research can be a powerful tool in this work.


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Media Watch
News Clips

Washington

"Why is diversity so important in higher education? --Social justice: it is simply unacceptable, on moral grounds, that educational opportunity should be less open to some groups in our society than to others. It is an affront to what our country stands for...--Social and economic health: We cannot afford to waste the talents of any of our citizens, and we cannot afford the social unrest and divisiveness that flow from unequal opportunity. --Educational excellence: Diversity has important educational benefits in and of itself. Students learn from one another, both in the classroom and outside. Those who spend these crucial years in the company of people unlike themselves are better prepared for life and work in modern society." University of Washington President, Richard McCormick, writing on the importance of diversity at the University of Washington in the wake of the passage of Initiative 200, banning the use of race in college admissions in the state. ("Race and the University: Why Social Justice Leads to Academic Excellence," The Seattle Times, 19 March, 2000).


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Colorado

"'Ethnic studies allows students to get a higher education,' said Evelynn Hu Dehart, professor and chair of the department of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder. 'You are educated (in this major) to be a citizen, to live in a democracy, and be part of this global environment'." Professor Hu Dehart responding to recommendations from the Colorado Commission of Higher Education about the possibility of eliminating Colorado University programs that lack graduates. ("Colorado Colleges' Ethnic Studies Under Scrutiny," 26 April, 2000).


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Georgia

"While better educated African American parents generally prefer historically black colleges for their children, many parents don't feel the schools offer a diverse enough environment, a recent study by Morris Brown College found. Thirty-eight percent of the 600 black parents of teens interviewed said they don't want their children to attend a historically black college or university (HBCU). Of this group, 33 percent said HBCUs are not diverse enough, 20 percent said their environments are too sheltered, and 17 percent said they do not prepare students for the real world. Of the 62 percent who said they prefer an HBCU, 73 percent listed pride of heritage as the top reason. Other parents said the schools offer supportive environments and good role models." ("Parents Speak on Black Colleges; More Diversity Needed, Poll Says," 30 March, 2000).


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New York

"College enrollment will swell by some two million students--to 19 million--over the next 15 years, with black, Hispanic and Asian-American students accounting for 80 percent of the growth, according to a study scheduled for release today by the Educational Testing Service.... 'The fact that so many more minority students are opting for college is great news and underscores minority families' dedication to educating their children,' Sonia Hernandez of the California Department of Education said. 'Celebrations are premature,' she said. 'I am very worried that we could fail these children.'... 'We need to be careful that the growing numbers of minority students ready for college don't give us a false sense that we have achieved our diversity goals,' said Richard A. Fry,...co-author of the report. Mr. Fry said that if black and Hispanic students attended college at the same rate as whites, the national economy would grow by $231 billion annually." ("Swell of Minority Students Is Predicted at Colleges," 24 May, 2000).


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District of Columbia

"Affirmative action still does a better job of achieving diversity on college campuses than do new policies in California, Texas, and Florida that guarantee top high school graduates are admitted to public universities, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights said Tuesday.... 'The plan in Florida...is unacceptable as a substitute for race-conscious affirmative action,' [Commission chairperson, Mary Frances] Berry said....Berry recommended that if states implement percentage plans, they do so 'warily' and as a complement to existing affirmative-action policies." ("Affirmative Action Still Tops For Achieving College Diversity, Panel Says," 12 April, 2000).


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Florida

"Americans at the beginning of the 21st century still have not been able to leave behind certain unpleasant things about the past--including discrimination and racism. These issues need ongoing attention, discussion and honesty. I think it is fair to suggest that no place in this society can say it has reached a point of total equality. That includes the world of higher education. And it includes Rollins College, where I study international business...a few recent incidents on campus--insensitivity and expressions of cultural superiority--have raised concerns. We cannot pretend that such behavior doesn't exist or that it will go away on its own. Rather, we have to work individually and collectively to make everyone on campus aware that such behavior isn't acceptable and must change." Editorial by student, Judith Toothe. ("College Kids Battle Bias, Near and Far," 11 April, 2000).


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